Here’s a story for you. Once upon a library book….
Back in January, Kelly had me come in to her class to do a book talk for her students as the official kickoff to “I Love to Read” month (which is February). I’ve done this for years for her. I bring in a ton of books from different genres and talk to the kids about what the genres mean and what types of books they can read. It’s a ton of fun, the kids love it and learn a lot.
Then I leave the entire pile of books with Kelly for the kids to use and explore and play with. Now, I would not do this for just anyone. The books are checked out to me, so I’m responsible for them, but Kelly loves the library as much as I do, and she’s very responsible with the books. YEARS we’ve done this and never had a problem.
Of course, this year, there was a problem.
She kept the books and the due date slip and returned them all by the date. As she returned, she checked them off the list to make sure she had them all. She didn’t. There was one missing. She looked for it. And looked for it and looked for it. The kids cleaned their desks, scoured the room, looked at home, this book is missing.
Kelly had told me all of this from the minute she couldn’t find it, so I knew. I fully believed that she would find the book. I figured one of these little kids had it tucked away somewhere and it would turn up. But, it’s been 2.5 months now and it still hasn’t turned up. Kelly offered to pay for the cost of the book, because it is in fact lost.
I’ve been renewing the book this whole time, hoping it would just turn up. But, it’s been so long now, Kelly is sure it won’t. Last night, I went to the library with the intent of paying for the book. There are no more renewals, so I just wanted to deal with it.
I explained this story to the woman working there. She said, “did you get a bill?” Um, no. I didn’t even know they did that. Honestly, I’ve never lost a library book in my life, so I have no idea how this process works. I only know it from the librarian end, how to handle payment for a lost book. And I only know that procedure for Anoka. She said that after a period of time, she thought 30 days, but wasn’t sure, the system would send me a bill for the lost item. At that point, she said, I can come in and pay for it.
Now, I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but I asked “why do I have to wait?” I explained that the book is 100% lost and we’ve been looking for it for months already and I’d like it taken care of. At this point, she is staring at me like I’ve grown another head while talking to her. She explained that until the system registers the book as lost, she can’t accept payment because there is nothing to pay. I’d really like to know who comes up with these things. That’s not true. She should have the ability to mark the item as lost, forcing the system to add the charges to my account. Thus, allowing me to pay for it. But, whatever, it’s not a huge deal and I wasn’t there to make trouble. So I just said fine, that I would wait until I get the bill.
Then she asked if she could call me with additional information, she said she wanted to talk to her boss today. She would find out the details of the this procedure. I couldn’t believe she didn’t know them, but I agreed and gave her my cell phone number.
She kind of hesitated and then she looked at me and said, “thank you for being such a conscientious library user.” I asked what she meant, because it is kind of an unusual compliment.
She said that it is extremely rare to have people step up and take responsibility for something like this, usually it is a fight that the library loses. Now, having worked in a public library myself, I can understand that, people don’t usually take responsibility. They claim they returned it or they accuse us of making a mistake or whatever. But this situation has nothing to do with being a librarian. I told her, “well, the book belongs to you, you trusted me to take care of it and I didn’t do that, so I am responsible for what happens next.”
She nodded and said, “that’s what I mean, very conscientious, so I just wanted to say thank you.”
And that made my day. And they still won’t let me pay for the book yet. When I get the bill, I’ll take care of it, because I am a conscientious library user. And it was nice to be recognized, but nicer still was the fact that I know I somehow made HER day just by doing the right thing.